Chris Riddell: My experience with John Lewis shows why it’s important for creatives to protect their work

Picture the scene. The band Elbow are performing a charming cover version of a Beatles song, while an amiable monster peers out of the darkness under a little boy’s bed. It is the much anticipated premier of the John Lewis Christmas advert and I’m getting a strange sense of deja vu. 

The monster snores loudly, preventing the little boy from sleeping; the monster shakes the bed, the little boy acquires a pair of earmuffs. The monster emerges from beneath the bed. He is big, blue-grey, and fluffy with a pink nose and a wide, fang fringed smile. John Lewis are calling their charming creation Moz the Monster, hoping to meet the hearts of the nation.

I see unmistakeable echoes of my very first picture book, Mr Underbed. I smile, turn off the TV and go to bed – no monsters lurking beneath it, just a vague sense of being taken advantage of.

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The next day I go to a book launch for my friend, Oliver Jeffers’ wonderful new picture book Here Are We. Oliver has had the same sense of deja vu I experienced, only a couple of years ago. He watched John Lewis warm the hearts of the nation with a Christmas advert about a little boy and an adorable penguin – the premise of his book Lost And Found....more